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Called manzai in Japanese, a Boke and Tsukkomi Routine is a kind of Straight Man and Wise Guy duo, but also the interaction between two characters who constantly play off each other. A boke's job is to set up the gag by telling a story or explaining a fact which is obviously false (making him an idiot) or flawed (making him sneaky). The tsukkomi is, roughly, the Straight Man who has to correct him, often physically.
It is common in Osaka so normally both members of the comedy duo will speak in Kansai-ben. Frequently, manzai teams will dress in one of two ways: 1) similarly tailored outfits with complementary color schemes; 2) one (usually the boke) wears casual clothes, and the other (usually the tsukkomi) a respectable business suit. Ironically, the most famous manzai duo of all time, Downtown, reversed this -- Hitoshi Matsumoto, the boke, always wears a suit and tie (albeit with the tie tucked neatly into his trousers), and Masatoshi Hamada, the tsukkomi, always wears something casual. (They're also pretty much single-handedly responsible for the equation of Kansai-ben with funny characters.)
The western equivalent is a Punch and Judy show.
When the characters do this purposely to impress, it's not supposed to be very funny and no one will laugh, despite good intentions. When someone is the tsukkomi for an entire cast, they're probably also the Only Sane Man. When someone is a boke for the whole cast, they're probably also a Cloudcuckoolander. Do not be surprised in a show with a large cast if one character is boke to one person and tsukkomi to another.
Anime and Manga
- Sket Dance is one giant Shonen-style Boke and Tsukkomi Routine, quite arguably. Although all of the Sket Trio can be any of the two roles depending on the situation, Bossun and Himeko are able to pull off this act masterfully, even when in their everyday interactions with each other.
- Chiaki Takahasi pointed this out when Bossun met Himeko for the first time.
- In one chapter, Bossun and Himeko partnered up on the spot during the closing round of a live Manzai contest. Their flawless performance eventually gave them the win against their cheating opponent.
- Gintama is basically a series of Boke and Tsukkomi Routines. The characters even describe their own interactions as such.
- In a typical bit of self-reference, Haré in Jungle wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu said that, since he is the show's Tsukkomi, he is not good at telling funny stories.
- Digimon Xros Wars of all places have this. And it was done during the Defrosting Ice Queen episode for Nene...with Akari.
- In Ranma ½, Kasumi occasionally tries to pull off a sequence of these jokes playing both parts herself.
- Shows up in Azumanga Daioh quite often. Tomo occasionally demands to be the "boke" to an utterly unsuited Osaka's tsukkomi, and Yomi (who is eminently suited) has played that part at least once. Osaka was once asked to do this with Miss Yukari, and was asked which person should take which part. She asked Yukari to be the boke, prompting Yukari to bop her. As Yomi stated, "So it begins..."
- Chiyo unintentionally acts as the tsukkomi to Tomo once, and gets berated by her and Osaka for doing so.
- Mariasama ga Miteru does this in the Post Episode Trailer a couple of times.
- Megumi and Miki in Tenshi na Konamaiki frequently refer to Souga as "boke", and there are several joking references to Megumi being his tsukkomi, including an actual Hyperspace Malleting with the Paper Fan of Doom.
- Saki's willingness to be the Genshiken tsukkomi is treated as a Running Gag throughout the series. In the manga, the Genshiken members even make her a Paper Fan of Doom.
- On Keroro Gunsou, Natsumi frequently refers to Keroro as boke-gaeru (usually translated as "stupid frog"). Episode 18 of the series involves Natsumi being turned into an adult and given a Kansai Regional Accent by Kururu's latest inventions, so she can perform manzai in a beauty pageant/comedy contest.
- She calls him baka-gaeru.
- In the "Tower of Terror" episode of Pokémon, the Ghost Pokemon trio (Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar) are first seen watching such a routine on TV.
- In the Diamond and Pearl saga of the Pokémon Special manga, the goal of the two main characters is not to be great Pokemon trainers, but to be great manzai performers. They take a chance to practice their act in every chapter.
- When Team Rocket accidentally capture Brock's Lombre (they were aiming for a Mawile), Wobbuffet appears to Lombre and they do a bunch of random slapstick skits in the process, all in Pokémon-Speak. Funnily enough, it was Wobbuffet, the biggest idiot in Team Rocket, who was playing the tsukkomi. What does Meowth have to say? "A really bad comedy routine".
- Haruhi Suzumiya's and Kyon's actions toward one another appear to be a version of this comedy routine- at least in the first season and first light novel. Haruhi makes some outlandish remark, and Kyon comments on how it doesn't makes sense, often to himself or someone else.
- Playing on the Anachronic Order in which the Melancholy episodes were first broadcast, the next-episode announcements at the end of each show of the first season were a compressed boke-tsukkomi exchange between Haruhi (giving the number of the episode in chronological order) and Kyon ("correcting" the number according to the broadcast order and stating the episode title).
- Emphasized even more in Haruhi Chan, since in this particular series, every character undergoes intentional Flanderization.
- Haruhi-chan gives us a second duo in Yuki-chan and Achakura. Yuki is the Boke by the way.
- Rina and Ranfa do an impromptu Boke and Tsukkomi Routine when they run into each other in a Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch episode.
- The premise of Lovely Complex is the budding romance between Huge Schoolgirl Risa and The Napoleon Ootani, who has trouble seeing Risa as anything more than his partner in their Boke and Tsukkomi Routine.
- In an episode of Angelic Layer, Kaede entertains guests at a victory party by performing both parts of the routine with herself as the tsukkomi and Blanche as the boke.
- Aizawa Sakuya from Hayate the Combat Butler more or less views life as a non-stop series of gags and comedy routines, frequently treating the unwitting Hayate as the boke and viciously assaulting him for any number of completely nonsensical reasons (mainly for being really bad at being a boke) whenever she makes an appearance. Her antics, in turn, often set her up for the boke role whenever Nagi is nearby, who answers attacks on Hayate in the name of comedy in kind.
- In GetBackers, Emishi and Amon pull off a number of these. (The first involves Emishi trying to describe the appearance, by comparing her to various celebrities, of a woman he's never met; in the second he insists on the existence of "stomach trilobites" to the point of drawing one on his abs in marker...)
- Kunogi Himawari of xxxHolic misinterprets Doumeki and Watanuki's constant arguments as an attempt to be a humorous Boke and Tsukkomi team.
- In The Prince of Tennis, doubles partners Hikaru "Dabide" Amane and Harukaze "Bane-san" Kurobane from Rokkaku frequently pull these off. More often than not, boke Dabide makes some rather bad word puns, and tsukkomi Bane kicks him on the head as a punishment. That even happens during matches, where Bane slaps Dabide across the face if he's slacking.
- In the Senbatsu arc of the anime, Amane is paired up with Oshitari (who is an Osaka native) in doubles. He attempts to pull the other into a similar dynamics...only to make the always calm Oshitari lose his temper. It's theorised, however, that Oshitari may not be that upset, just playing the tsukkomi role relaying on verbal insults rather than physical violence.
- Uryuu and Pesche did this when they were forced to team up on Bleach. Pesche is acting stupid on purpose, though.
- Less explicitly, there's also Hitsugaya to Matsumoto, Soi Fon to Omaeda, Ichigo to Kon (with Rukia), to his Dad (with Karin), to Keigo, to Urahara, and to Nel, Hiyori to Shinji & vice versa, Nanao to Kyouraku, Maki-Maki to Yachiru, etc., etc. With so many characters, it's no surprise there's a lot manzai duos in Bleach.
- In Souls, the Bleach character book (for the manga), a short omake chapter has Mayuri Kurotschi discussing this with Nemu, while both wear stand-up comedian suits—however, Kurotschi is taking "tsukkomi" in its alternate Japanese meaning of the verb "to stab" and is apparently looking forward to the part where he gets to stab Nemu. Then again, this is Mayuri Kurotsuchi we're talking about; he doesn't seem content to produce anything less than half of the Nightmare Fuel in the entire series.
- Around the time Ichigo first used his Bankai, one Omake held a manzai routine with Ichigo as the straight man and Ganju, Orihime and possibly someone else as the comic counterpart. The entire think was based off of similar sounding words to Bankai and manzai (such as banzai and sempai), in sentences that are worded so as to be self-referential humor and correct. Surprisingly, this skit of Japanese wordplay was brought over in the dub. The important words were explained in a series of rapid-fire notes, but left untranslated.
- This series loves it enough to use it in a 100 year flashback. Both Shinji and Urahara with Hiyori, Kensei with Mashiro (which continues in the present), and Shinji with Aizen.
- The wannabe comedy duo in Akahori Gedou Hour Lovege, Love Pheromone, are a straightforward example of this. Mostly.
- The relationship between best friends Nozomi and Rin in Yes! Pretty Cure 5 is not unlike that of a Boke and Tsukkomi Routine. Nozumi is an optimistic idiot who is always trying to Jump At The Call while Rin is a sensible realist who always points out the gaping flaws in Nozumi's plans. Usually along the lines of:
Nozomi: I want to do [activity]!
- In Clannad, both the Visual Novel and the Anime, Tomoya and Kyou try to teach Kotomi how to perform a proper tsukkomi. Sadly, the poor girl has boke written all over her face, and she regularly ends up on the receiving end of a tsukkomi immediately after attempting her own. At one point, she expresses the desire to become a great manzai performer. Both Nagisa and Ryou motivate her to work for her goal, but Kyou and Tomoya are quick to point out that all three of them are boke to the core.
- In Fushigi Yuugi, Hot-Blooded Tasuki and his best friend Kouji go into these sometimes.
- Maria in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei once spent far too long time watching Boke and Tsukkomi and started slapping people who were looking dazy...on the first day after New Years Eve!!
- When she returns from Japan in Kaleido Star, Sora gives Anna a set of manzai props (a Paper Fan of Doom and an idiot mask) as a souvenir. Anna then immediately tries to get Ken to play boke to her tsukkomi. Ken is not thrilled by the idea.
- Very common in Mahou Sensei Negima, mostly due to lead girl Asuna's weaponized Paper Fan of Doom. Setsuna also seems to be able to convert her tanto weapon to a fan at will whenever she wants to Dope Slap someone (specifically Chao whenever she makes a Sarcastic Confession about her many affiliations).
- And then there's Chisame, who wishes she could give everything the tsukkomi treatment so very, very badly.
- In Akamatsu's earlier work Love Hina, Mutsumi's...different way of thinking is based on the idiot half, with Naru or Keitaro providing the straight man's reaction.
- In a season 1 episode of Sailor Moon, this was one of the acts for a talent show.
- In Motto! Ojamajo Doremi, former SOS Trio member Sugiyama forms this act with straight-A student Ogura as rivals to the new Trio. Helped along by Aiko (who's from Osaka), Momoko finds them as stupidly hilarious as Hazuki does for the other team
- In Love Roma, Hoshino's relationship with his girlfriend Negishi mainly consists of him saying or doing something stupid and her slapping him for it. In one scene he mentions their romance is like a boke and tsukkomi routine. She's about to agree, when he mentions he's the tsukkomi and she's the boke.
Negishi: *thinking* I'm the boke?!
- Break and Sharon have elements of this in Pandora Hearts.
- Black Lagoon features this in an omake, which has Yukio and her kohai trying to do a manzai. No one in Yukio's yakuza gang apparently gets the idea of slapstick, and it doesn't end well. Brass knuckles get involved.
- In a strange example from The Law of Ueki+, this trope is actually part of a character's Dark and Troubled Past, where he was badly injured while practicing one of these routines and his partner left the city without him, so he stopped believing in friendship. This character is otherwise completely serious, and upon the other characters being told about this, they decide to proceed to use Brain Bleach.
- A brother-sister variation occurs in Science Ninja Team Gatchaman with Jun (serious big sis) and Jinpei (smartass kid).
- B Gata H Kei is essentially one big manzai routine between Yamada and her best friend Takeshita. Whenever Yamada bugs her best friend about something sex-related, Takeshita is there to smack her (verbally and/or physically).
- Bakemonogatari's often odd dialogue centers around the main character Araragi as the tsukkomi and the other person in the conversation as the boke. Whether or not the boke is acting as such intentionally is a matter of debate.
- Koganei (a newscaster) and Amasawa (a weatherman) from The Weatherman Is My Lover have a strong manzai dynamic together which creates much of the appeal of their program, as the audience is waiting for the moment Koganei will crack.
- Nodame Cantabile has a notable gender-flip of male-on-female variant played for laughs the same way it would if female-on-male. Tsundere Chiaki often resorts to violence Cloudcuckoolander Nodame does something that annoys him. Nodame herself even admits to playing up the role since Chiaki is the perfect Straight Man.
- In an early episode of Fushigiboshi no Futagohime Gyu!, Fine and Rein meet a girl named Lemon who comes from a planet where everyone is into comedy, and wants to team up with them for a manzai act. She tries to be the boke, even though she's more suited to be the tsukkomi, and eventually she tells them that she quit being a tsukkomi after she hit her brother (her old partner) so hard that he fell unconscious and quit comedy for good. Later, her brother confesses that he didn't actually faint, he just realized that he couldn't be a good enough boke for her, so he stayed down.
- This is a good part of One Piece's humor. A character will say or do something completely absurd and act like it's no big deal, while someone else will flip out. A more literal example would be the interaction between One Piece Film Strong World's God-Created Canon Foreigner villains Shiki and Dr. Indigo, who, apparently, have been doing it over 20 years ago.
- Eyeshield 21 has this as a lot of it's humor. Hiruma tends to play a sneaky boke to his team, though almost everyone the team has their boke moments. Kakei and Mizumachi are this pretty much all the time.
- In Ichigo Mashimaro, Miu is the boke, while her usual tsukkomi is Chika. In one episode, Chika's trying to concentrate on homework, but Miu wants to know who'll be the straight man for her antics. She tries to get Matsuri to play the role instead, but she's too "boring" for it. Her other common tsukkomi is Nobue.
- In K-On! season 2, Yui and Azuza do a boke and tsukkomi routine before singing as a duo at a neighbourhood talent show. As one would expect from their personalities, Yui was the boke and Azuza was the tsukkomi.
Yui: She's the reprehensible one.
- Lampshaded in the Japanese version of the Mac & PC commercials. By maintaining the outfits from the US version, Mac has inadvertently become a casual-clad Tsukkomi while PC is the formal-wearing Boke. Given that these two actors form the comedy group Rahmens, this may have been deliberate. Watch all 12 of them here.
- A Running Gag in the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Fan Web Comic A's Nano has Hayate being portrayed as a master of the Boke and Tsukkomi routine due to having a Kansai Dialect. Note: Link may be considered NSFW.
- One of the welcome surprises resulting from the Crazy Awesome that is Shinji and Warhammer 40 K is the Rei-Asuka comedy duo. Rei is the boke, while Asuka, perhaps understandably, thinks "tsukkomi" is some sort of bizarre Japanese perversion and refuses to listen whenever someone attempts to explain it.
- In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kanae and Kunikida think that Yanagimoto and Taniguchi are trying to invoke this while dating.
- In We Are Number One but it's in Japanese ☆彡, there is a sudden yet smooth transition to a reference to Bad Apple, prompting Roxie Robbin to shout out "Stop singing weird songs!" in one of the places the regular version of We Are Number One would have him and his recruits say "We are number one".
Live Action TV
- Downtown, possibly the most famous manzai duo, could be considered a subversion nowadays, having shifted from the rigid manzai to a more fluid conversational style of humor.
- The Autobacs M-1 Grand Prix is an annual manzai tournament, sponsored by Yoshimoto Kogyo (the largest jimusho (artist management company in Japan) and broadcast on Asahi TV. Many of the most prominent Japanese comedians of the last ten years came into the public's eye through their appearances in the competition.
- The Japanese version of Sesame Street has two Muppets like these.
- Yuto and Deneb do this in Kamen Rider Den-O, though Deneb is more naive than stupid, and Yuto, as a Jerkass, tends to overreact badly.
- More explicitly, the Kamen Rider Decade stage musical (yes, it exists) has several imprisoned Riders doing it to kill time. The Hoppers (complete with gigantic bowties) try it out, but then, lampshading the Kansai part, Den-O changes to Ax Form and does a bit alongside Ohja.
- In the Kamen Rider Kiva net movies, Kengo and Wataru practice one of these and it goes over as well as you'd expect.
- In Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, Ryuunosuke and Genta's interaction borders on this. Lampshaded when they actually do a manzai routine to amuse the others at New Year.
- Ricky Gervais (tsukkomi) and Karl Pilkington (boke) have this exact dynamic in their routines on The Ricky Gervais Show. Karl, an "idiot", is brought in and asked to talk about various Seinfeldian Conversation topics, which soon derail into total nonsense, at which point Ricky corrects him by shouting "Don't. Talk. Shit."
- In Persona 2: Innocent Sin, if you have Maya and Yuki contact a demon together, they'll do one of these, with Maya as the boke. Notable example: "Did you know that when a tsunami hits it can send you and your family on a trip?" "That's not what they mean by 'it sends you packing.'"
- One example, however, is based on misinterpreting Japanese characters:
Maya: Oh, yeah! I was just reminded that I found this interesting dish at a ramen shop!
- In an extra segment for Persona 3: FES, the main character and one of his classmates, Kenji, act out an impromptu comedy routine. The response the player chooses for Kenji's setups determine whether you are a master of Japanese humor or not.
- Also, Jack Frost and Pyro Jack have a fusion spell where they do a Boke and Tsukkomi routine with the effect of knocking down all enemy shadows.
- In one Ryu ga Gotoku side mission you are supposed to help a man get him and his friend back together for the act because of recent failure. Turns out the problem was their roles were mixed up. The guy dressed in street clothes tried to be the boke but was the tsukkomi and vice versa with his friend who was dressed in a nice suit being the tsukkomi when he was naturally the boke all along.
- YouTube has some Fan Vids of Touhou characters acting out some of these skits. Most memetically pleasing is the one where Hong Meiling (playing the Boke) tricks Patchouli (unwitting Tsukkomi) into a very embarrassing Chop Chop Master Onion sequence.
- The Scarlet Tsukkomi Routine has Flandre and Cirno pull a fast one on Remilia by trying to cast Cirno (the ultimate Boke) in the role of a Tsukkomi.
- These two videos are but part of a long-running manzai competition between the girls of Gensokyo, known as the Touhou M-1 Grand Prix collection. This is a play on the real-life Autobacs M-1 Grand Prix (see below). The prize for the 3rd iteration was to have the winning pair overwrite Reimu and Marisa as the main characters; Reimu and Marisa won.
- Links to all the English-subbed Touhou Manzai skits (along with some that are not) can be found at the Touhou Wiki here.
- Yuyuko and Youmu are known to do this in Canon, most infamously in Imperishable Night where Big Eater Yuyuko implies that after defeating Mystia she ate her. She didn't. While Yuyuko is just acting, Youmu isn't. Poor Youmu.
- The Scarlet Tsukkomi Routine has Flandre and Cirno pull a fast one on Remilia by trying to cast Cirno (the ultimate Boke) in the role of a Tsukkomi.
- Mother 3 features a pair of would-be comedians who practice boke and tsukkomi routines (Their names? Bud and Lou), as well as a paper fan that lets you cure party members of confusion by whacking them on the head.
- The Hammerhead Brothers from Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.
- There's an extended reference in Kanon during Mai's route. As the local Emotionless Girl, she has trouble expressing herself. Eventually, she gets embarrassed with Sayuri's teasing and bonks her on the head, leaving Yuichi and Sayuri to stop in utter shock. 'She...she played the tsukkomi!' She continues this throughout when feeling nervous. Sayuri and Yuichi get hit a lot because they find it hilarious to see Mai do that.
- Solt and Peppor from Chrono Cross display this kind of interplay during their boss fights. In fact, when we meet their Home World versions, they are doing this routine as a comedy duo on Fargo's ship.
- In an optional minigame when Koh visits the Monsbaiya Theater in Azure Dreams, he can be roped into playing the tsukkomi to one of the regular performers' boke.
- Two birds perform this as one of the endless minigames in Rhythm Heaven Fever.
- Pretty much the core comedy dynamic in the Ace Attorney line of games. Your sensible but put-upon attorney plays the tsukkomi for their usually Cloudcuckoolander boke sidekick. Additionally, the same dynamic carries into the courtroom with the judge and loony witnesses, and the roles trade off fluidly between the prosecution and the defense in each game.
- The Wii Ware Sega title Pole no Daibouken is an unusual example of this: the entire game is the boke, what with all the weird and zany gags, and the narrator is the tsukkomi trying to be the foil to all the insanity.
- In Legend of Legaia, Gala ends up acting as a stand-in in one of these routines. He's quite naive and his religion forbids laughter, so he makes a perfectly clueless boke.
- They were partly that, but they also represent far right-wing Japanese ultra-nationalists, who complain about Japan's "peacetime boke" (in comparison to its earlier attitude)